Monday, March 29, 2010

Homesteading Adventure #12 - Maple Syrup & New Eggs

It's been a while since our last update.

It appears we tapped our trees a little late. After just a day and a half, the sap quit running. The best time to collect sap is when it gets above freezing during the day, but freezes at night. Starting the second night after we tapped, the nights stayed warm, thus killing the collecting. We did end up collecting 5 gallons of sap in that short time. As it usually takes 50 gallons of sap to make just one gallon of sap, you can imagine, we didn't yield much syrup. It took us about 24 hours total to boil down the small about we collected and we were able to can up just one pint of syrup. But, Oh My, it was sooo worth it!. Since Mrs. Butterworths is not a welcome guest in this home, I have been buying pure maple syrup from the grocery store for a few years now.
Our syrup tastes a thousand times better than anything I've purchased. I swear to you, I actually licked the pot after I'd scraped it clean. It's like liquid gold!

We got another 2 dozen eggs from Valerie, my chicken friend, on the 21st. I just had to give incubating one more try this year. We candled tonight and ALL of them are developing! I'm keeping our incubator a little warmer this time around. 102* instead of 99.5*. Apparently in a still air incubator, the temperature should be hotter. I'm also vowing to really sit on my hands this time and I will NOT be opening the incubator for any reason once we go into Lockdown. Even our 6 year old homesteader knew better than to break the rules. I should have listened to her....
It's funny. This hatch is going by so much more quickly. And we aren't nearly as obsessed about checking temperature and humidity. I guess we're a little more seasoned now with a hatch under our belts. This will be our last hatch this year. I'd like to hatch one bunch each year to keep our flock young...and for the fun of it, of course.

Also, while we were at Valerie's, Jeremy decided we needed another 4 chicks. So we have 9 chickens in the brooder. Which, by the way, has been relocated from the bathroom to the basement. The chicks are so fun to watch! We've already made predictions which ones are roosters based on their demeanor. They are also really feathering out. A few of them even have cute little tails starting. I'll have to take some pictures of them. They have officially made it to the homely stage. It's almost laughable how silly they look half feathered and still half fluff.

Stay tuned....I promise homely chick pictures soon!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Homesteading Adventure #11: If Ya Can't Hatch 'Em, Buy 'Em

Our first hatching attempt is officially over tonight when I get home.
We came out with one lone chick. The two that pipped on Tuesday died (and possibly a third which pipped on the bottom - Can't really see well enough to say for sure). And nothing else has happened with the others. This many days in, their chances of survival are slim...even if they were to hatch.
I called my Chicken Friend, Valerie, yesterday and told her about the two that died. I expressed my concern of having a lone chick. She had 26 chicks just a few days older than "Crash" (I'm still not allowed to name her officially, per Jeremy). I went out to her farm to visit her yesterday and purchased 4 chicks to keep "Crash" company. I plan to pick up new eggs this weekend and give this incubating thing another try. Besides, after almost 4 weeks of this, I'm pretty sure my life is meaningless if I don't have temperature and humidity to check. HAHA

The important thing is that we did what we set out to do: experience birth. All four of us were there to witness "Crash's" entrance into our world.

There is still so much to do to get BBV Farms up and running:.
It looks like the sap has quit flowing and we only got about 5 gallons of sap, which should yield about 1/10 of a gallon of syrup.
We need to start setting up the raised beds gardens. I was going to use 2x12's, but I think I'm going to go for something more natural. Rocks. I pulled all of the rock borders out of the flower beds last fall and started a big rock pile. At least I'll have a use for them now.
I found a website where I can order some blueberry bushes for pretty cheap.
Jeremy would like some cherry trees so he can relive his days in Traverse City at the Cherry Farm.
We are also contemplating getting rabbits. I would like to hold off for a bit. The chicken coop has cost a freakin' fortune and we still haven't even run the fence yet.

"Crash" is the little chick in the middle at the top of the picture of the chicks.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Homesteading Adventure #10: March 16th Hatching Progress

11:30 am: Egg #18 has pipped!

12:30 pm: Egg #3 has pipped!

3:45 pm: Egg #18 has made a little progress. It's definitely not moving quite as fast as Egg #8 moved.
Egg #3 has made a tiny bit of progress. I can still see it moving around in there.
I think Egg #19 pipped at the wrong end and at the bottom. This isn't the norm and doesn't normally end well, but fingers are crossed for the little guy to get out safe and sound.

7:45 pm: Still waiting.....
Egg #18 has come to a complete stand still after mostly zipping. I am hoping it's just taking a rest before the grand entrance, but I'm concerned the little thing might have died.
Egg #3 is still taking her sweet time. Still peeping and moving around but there is just a tiny hole still
Egg # 19 My plan is to turn it if egg #18 and #3 would hurry the heck up! Once they are hatched, and if no others have pipped I could break the rules again and quickly turn it so at least the pip is facing up.
Egg #8 AKA Crash is doing awesome. Cute as can be and spunky.
I'm surprisingly calm considering I've been waiting all day to see a new chick.

9:30 pm:
I'm pretty sure Egg #18 is dead. :-( Poor thing zipped almost all the way and I'm pretty sure that the way I have the eggs in the egg carton made it impossible for it to break the egg open. I have them laying over the top because in my infinite newbie wisdom, that way was better than just sticking them in the way they should be. Learning experience, right???
Egg #3 is either really lazy or really screwed. They say that it can take up to 24-48 hours sometimes to finish the hatch once they pip. I guess I don't have much choice but to wait it out.
Egg #19 has done nothing at all.
Blah.....this day has kind of turned out to be a bust, as far as chicks are concerned. :-( I'm exhausted. I'm going to sleep and going to hope that I wake up to something in the incubator that'll make me smile....
Seriously, this "farming" thing might prove to be too much for my little heart.

3/17/10: Both Egg #18 and Egg # 3 died. :-(
I was totally bumming last night when I realized that we lost #3 too.
This is a learning process and sometimes newbies decide to go against the rules (i.e. opening the incubator to take chicks out instead of waiting until the hatch is complete, moving things around because the newly hatched chick is Crashing around).
I will not open the incubator until Thursday. At that point whatever hasn't hatched, I'm pretty sure isn't going to make it out. And next time I incubate eggs, I will follow the lockdown rules and not open the incubator until the hatch is complete.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Homesteading Adventure #9: PIP!

After days of hatching despair, WE HAVE OUR FIRST PIP!!!!!!

Instead of heading straight to the bedroom to check the incubator after work, I cuddled a sad child and then had dinner with my family. I didn't make it into the bedroom until 7 o'clock to check on the temp and humidity.

When I looked in, Egg #8 looked "weird". It actually took me about 10 seconds of staring to figure it out. It had a hole in it! A hole with a little beak poking in and out! And so now the real obsessing starts!

I'll update as s/he makes progress. In the meantime, cross your fingers!

9:30 pm:
We have a CHICK! S/he pushed open the shell, took a wild run across every egg, knocking every single one of them. And landed in the corner. We're supposed to keep her in the incubator until she's dry and fluffy, but I think it might be time to get the brooder warmed up so she doesn't kill the other chicks before they get a chance to hatch.
I'll post pictures when I get a couple noteworthy ones.

11:10 pm: If I were allowed to name this chick, it would be Crash. S/he's not quite dry enough to take out of the incubator yet. And the destruction that is happening inside of the incubator is scaring me to death. I have spent 22 days treating these eggs as though they are made of glass....very thin, delicate glass. If anything survives the smashing and Crashing that's happening inside of my incubator right now it'll be a miracle! I actually (again) broke the rules and shoved a 1/2 egg carton in through one of the windows in an effort to keep the eggs away from this little rascal. The remaining 5 eggs are going to have to wait until s/he is out. I can't handle getting the top of my hand burnt by the heating element any more.

Homesteading Adventure #8: Learning Patience and/or Defeat

Hello, My name is Nellie Burdick and I have a problem with patience.

Day #21 has come and gone with no sign of baby chicks. I will admit that I obsessed (a lot) over the weekend. My incubator windows literally have nose prints on nose prints. Jeremy warned me that watched eggs never hatch and I'm starting to actually believe him. I spent Saturday and Sunday trying to pip them with my very own eyes and that didn't work. As I got ready for work this morning, I tried to convince myself that something would happen today. It's noon and I've gotten no word of any action yet.

I have been pregnant twice. I bred chinchillas for years. I have never felt this anxious over an impending birth. Maybe time has made those memories foggy. Maybe it's because I could feel the little chinchilla feet kick my palm when I reached my hand inside the cage and onto a mama's belly. These eggs are so ungiving right now. They won't rock. They won't peep. They are taunting me by just sitting there looking pretty.

I am questioning my temperatures. My humidity. My airflow. Wondering if I've drowned them. Wondering if they're not wet enough. Wondering if I should have left them upright instead of laid them down. Wondering if I should just give up and never incubate again or if I should purchase new eggs while the incubator is still warm. And we are at only day #22.
Did I mention that I have a problem with patience?

Against the "lockdown" rules and even the advice of my six year old ("No Mama! They are in LOCKDOWN! Don't open it. Lockdown means it's Locked-Down. Like in Jail. You can't open it!"), I quickly candled two eggs last night before bed. Egg #10 - referenced in Adventure #6 - has grown significantly just in the last three days. There was next to no light showing through and I believe I saw some movement. I didn't see any movement in Egg #8, but it was hard to concentrate while Jeremy was whispering in my ear "you said just one. Hurry up! Put it back. You said you were only going to candle one!" Seeing the improvement in Egg#10's size has led me to believe that maybe all is not lost. That I may very well still get a couple (or all) of my chicks to hatch.

Cheer's to hoping that the last three weeks of planning, care, love, and obsessing hasn't been in vain. Cheer's to mother nature. Cheer's to What Shall Be Shall Be. Cheer's to Patience. Ugh, I need a drink......

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Homesteading Adventure #7: Tick, Tock...Tick, Tock

Seriously, this waiting might just kill me............

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Homesteading Adventure #6: Lockdown!

Tonight is the night!
The eggs have been candled for the last time. The turner has been removed. The humidity and temps are climbing back to where they should be. Unless I'm typing, I am sitting on my hands. And already, just an hour and a half after lockdown started, there are nose prints on the incubator windows.

Tonight's candling was the most exciting since we saw first signs of life.
When candling Egg #10, I said "Oh Girls....this one looks like it might have died on's so much smaller............Holy CRAP! It's moving!!!!!" as I watched what looked like a wing swing in front of the light.

So here are our newest stats:
3: :-) *
4: x
5: x
8: :-) *
9: :-)
10: :-)* ^
11: :-)*^
12: :-)
13: :-)
15: :-)*^
17: ?
18: :-)*
19: :-)*^
20: :-)*
22: :-)*
23: :-)

:-) - More development since last candling
:-)* - Movement
:-)*^ - Movement but hatch may be delayed

T-minus, 3 days and counting! Keep your fingers crossed!!!!!!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Homesteading Adventure #5: Holy Springtime!

Wow-wee! We had an insanely busy weekend! Spring is upon us....I can feel it!
Of course in Geauga County, Ohio, there will still be at least another 12 or so inches of snow before it's truly Spring.
Sunday was an absolutely beautiful day! There wasn't a cloud in the sky and it was at least 40*.

We started our morning by driving to Huntsburg to Hershey Montessori School ( for pancake breakfast. It was Amazing!!!! The best pancake breakfast I've had yet.
The school itself was so awesome. I'd love to send the girls there, but it's awfully pricey. I might check into financial aid or see if I can save enough money for each of them to go for one year in high school if they'd like to. It would be an amazing experience.

We dropped Lizzie and Maggie off at their dad's and Jeremy and I had a full day planned.
Our to do list:
Cut slant boards for roof of coop
Frame nest boxes
Take down dog kennel
Grade yard
Frame Chick Door
Tap Maple Trees

We stopped at Walmart in search of cheap containers to use for collecting sap. We have 7 maple trees in our yard and we were going to need enough containers to put 2-3 taps in each tree. I remembered that they have a water station there so I grabbed Jer by the hand and said, "come on! I have an idea!" Just as I containers! Gallon jugs were only $0.64. I started loading up my arms full of gallon size milk jugs while Jeremy kept telling me that they weren't going to sell us empty containers. I'm shaking my head at him and saying, "Jer, what? They are going to make us FILL the containers so we can go home and dump them? Of course not!" We walk to the front of the store loaded down with jugs - it's at this point that we are thinking it would have been smart to take a cart with us - with all eyes on the two idiots buying empty jugs. When we get to the cashier, she picked up the jug....obviously thinking it would be full and over compensating the lift. She scans. It rings up as Water Container and Water Refill $0.64 + $0.36. It was at this point when the confusion set in around our aisle. She wondered if we'd like to fill them since we were being charged for water. We laughed and said no. Then she asked the cashier at the next aisle what to do. She didn't know.She also asked if we'd like to fill them since we were being charged for the water. Our cashier suggested just charging us for the refill, but not the bottle. The second cashier suggested calling a manager. The entire time Jeremy and I are laughing and telling her that it's fine. We don't want the water. We will pay the extra $0.36 each. It's really not that big of a deal. It was getting embarrassing! And Jeremy was shaking his head at me, as if to say, "See???? I TOLD you we were going to have to buy water!" Of course, now they are both asking why we would want empty jugs. So I explained, as if it was a normal occurrence, "to tap our maple trees...." Which started a whole new line of questioning......

When we got home, Jeremy went back to work on the coop and I went to work tapping trees. The set up we came up with this year is pretty cool! Last year's tree tapping failed miserably.

By the end of the day, the coop frame was in place on pavers and there were 8 spiles running sap!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Homesteading Adventure #4: Coop Building

You wouldn't think picking out a coop style would really be that difficult. It is though!!!!
I made the mistake of looking at the awesome designs on

Coops like this: make me drool. They also set the bar really high in my crazy head.

Seriously, who really NEEDS such a fancy coop? I guess I don't NEED a fancy coop, but I WANT one.

This coop: caught my eye quite some time ago.

And more recently, I fell in love with this coop:

So after many discussions and disagreements and drawings, Jeremy and I started building the coop today. We will be incorporating a little of each of them into ours (except maybe the McMansion of Chicken Coops). At this point, the frame is mostly done and is tacked together in the driveway. The backyard is still so deep under snow that we won't be able to construct it in it's permanent home for some time.

Right now, only one neighbor knows about our plan to have chickens. I don't think this is something I'd like to advertise to the neighbors. Not yet. I can imagine the thoughts going through their heads: "chickens stink." "chickens are loud." "are chickens even allowed in the neighborhood?" I'd much rather let them notice on their own. Or better yet, not notice until we bring them a dozen fresh eggs.

The neighbor to the North of us, Debbie, is hilarious. She gets the biggest kick out of Jeremy and the crazy projects we are always working on. So today, we were building the walls of our *very inconspicuous* ( 8 ft long x 8 ft wide x 8 ft high) chicken coop in plain sight of the entire neighborhood. Debbie said, "what are you building NOW?" I just smiled, stepped back, and let Jer handle it. In his typical smarty pants way, Jeremy said, "A secret room. A secret room for myself and the dogs." Debbie just laughed, shook her head, and walked in the house.
Mr. Cigar Smoking Dog Walker Neighbor asked if we were going to be putting a hot tub in the driveway. Jeremy and I both said, "Ummm...yes." HAHAHA

We made quite a bit of progress today and with any luck we'll have the coop finished up this weekend or next. Then we'll move onto the run, the fenced area. At this rate this project is going to cost a fortune!

If you'd like a quick update on the eggs: We've candled again and one looks like it might have died. It's still in the incubator because I want to make 100% sure that we aren't tossing a live egg. The other 15 seem to be continuing to develop. Today is day 13. They will go into "lock down" on Thursday at day 18, until hatch day (day 21).

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Homesteading Adventure #3: Second Official Candling

We candled again today and we are left with 16 eggs in our incubator.
The 8 eggs we marked as X at last candling were all still showing no progress and have been tossed.
We are holding steady still with 6 ?s and 10 :-)s.
What's interesting is that a couple of our ?s turned into :-)s and a couple :-)s turned into ?s.
In fact, two of our original ?s (eggs #15 & #17) were the eggs that this time stunned us with MOVEMENT! That was pretty darn cool!
One egg (#22) has me really confused. There is definitely something in it. But it seems to move only when I gently move the egg. I couldn't really tell if it was moving on it's own at all. So egg #22 has an * next to it. I'm interested to see if it continues to grow or if we lost it.
Since I don't have a picture for you today, check out this link:
You can follow along with us and see what our eggs look like.
Today is day 7. Our approximate hatch date is March 14th.

Here's what our list looks like:
Egg # 26-Feb 28-Feb
3 :-) :-)
4 :-) :-)
5 :-) :-)
8 :-) :-)
9 :-) :-)
10 ? ?
11 :-) ?
12 :-) :-)
13 :-) ?
15 ? :-) Movement!
17 ? :-)Movement!
18 :-) :-)
19 :-) :-)
20 ? ?
22 ? ?
23 ? ?